Science Fiction

Spotlight on Graphic Novels: The Fuse

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The Fuse vol 1: The Russia Shift

You can get a copy of The Fuse here.

Deitrich is a German police officer who requests a transfer to the Fuse, a space station with its own vastly different culture and circumstances. There, he’s assigned to homicide and “the Russia shift.” He’s not on the Fuse for a full day when cabelers (an isolated homeless population who lives in the maintenance areas in the walls of the Fuse) show up shot to death. Because guns are highly restricted on the station, the murders peak Deitrich’s interest. He and his abrasive partner, Klem, are about to uncover a horrible secret.

The artwork in the graphic novel is interesting. It reminded me of the artwork in the Jackie Chan Adventures. It’s lots of angles and rough-hewn shapes. It’s interesting. Klem’s gender is a bit ambiguous, but that plays into the way that Klem is as a character.

The story is interesting. It’s fast-paced and interesting. The plot itself is a little rough at times. There’s a lot of convenient plot points that are a bit too easy to come by.

The dialogue is a bit stinted at times. Dietrich never uses contractions which was off-putting. I think this is supposed to make him feel like a non-native English speaker, but it was more awkward than beneficial to his character. His actions make him feel far more real than his dialogue does.

The overall story has a lot of interesting subtext. The Cabelers are a great point with a lot of potential for development. We’ve been told that there’s a lot of complex ideas and reasons that the Cabelers exist and their interactions with the mainstream citizens is going to be great when more fully explored. I’m quite excited for it.

Klem is going to be a very interesting person to see develop. She’s cold and a bit sterile, but we know there’s more to her. The relationship we see with her and her son, as well as the way she approaches Dietrich hint at some very complex relationships.

I received this comic as an e-ARC from Netgalley for free in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: The Little Green Book of Chairman Rhama by Brian Herbert

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Unfortunately, I wasn’t pleased with Brian Herbert’s new release.

Short list of highlights:
-Slow pacing
-Poor character development
-Not enough background

Review: Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

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Leviathan Wakes was a fun book, but Corey lost me at times. I gave it a 3.5 out of 5.

Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

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This book is a fantastically varied tale that is compelling and believable science fiction.

In Andy Weir’s The Martian, astronaut Mark Watney is one of the first humans to be on Mars, number 17, to be exact. His six man crew is supposed to land and stay on Mars for 31 days, but, on day 6, a massive sandstorm forces an early evacuation and termination of the mission. The crew scrambles to leave, and Mark gets knocked out. His life sign monitors flat-line, and the crew is forced to leave Mark’s body on Mars. There’s just one problem:

Mark isn’t dead.

He’s now left to try and survive alone on Mars until the next mission to Mars lands, over four years later.

The Martian by Andy Weir

There’s a lot going on in this book, so first things first. Let’s talk about Mark. A very big chunk of the book is Mark’s mission logs, which he starts taking when he realizes he’s stuck and is deciding that he can, in fact, survive for a rescue mission. The logs read much like a personal journal, and we get a sense for Mark’s personality. Mark, we’re told, deals with much of his stress through humor. The first chapter or so makes sure we’re aware of this aspect of his personality. To be honest, I was a little turned off by it at first. Weir lays it on a little thick. But, the more Mark focuses on his mission and survival, the more balanced his voice becomes.

Mark is a very creative thinker. Sometimes it was a little disappointing that we didn’t get to see his brain working through the problems he faced. Instead, the reader sees a lot of the post-idea formation. The actual thought process doesn’t really make it into his logs, but, hey, that’s what a log is for: recording the actions and reasons behind them for future review. We do, however, get a lot of Mark’s reactions to his survival missions and problem-solving attempts. That’s probably where some of Weir’s best work is. Mark’s records where he is panicking are very believable.

The story is counter-balanced by third-person narrative interludes of what is happening in the NASA control centers. Because they can’t always communicate, the NASA employees who find Mark and work to rescue him are often bustling. Weir very often shows the organization’s thought process and how different it is, at times, from Mark’s. What is very cool in this is that we get to see the way that the thought processes, though different, often come to similar conclusions. It also provides a contrast between the more organic self-preservation attempts Mark is making and the rigid institutional attempts that are working to bring him home. This results in some clashes, but the frustration is on both sides and their cooperation is that much more valuable for it.

The only thing I occasionally didn’t like was the quick problem-resolution sequences that occurred. It sometimes seemed that there were very quick solutions to the problems Mark had. When he was looking for a food supply to augment his provisions, the solution was straight forward. Surprisingly there were very few hiccups with implementing the solution. I expected more sustained problems. Another instance of this was when Mark is travelling. There are some very serious issues with his travel plans, some of which, we’re told by the NASA narratives, he couldn’t see coming until it was too late. It felt like there were a lot of times that Mark’s problems were overblown in their presentation. That being said, the story is very fast paced and we see a lot of creative thinking (on both Mark and Weir’s behalves).

As far as “realistic” science fiction goes, this isn’t just enjoyable, it’s very well presented. The characters are likable, there is a sense of urgency, and the story is compelling. A solid 4 out of 5.

Andy Weir talks about how he wrote the story here: http://bit.ly/1qpzBKZ

I received this book for free for an honest review via Blogging for Books.

Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

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Title: Cinder

Author: Marissa Meyer

Publication Date: 2012

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

I was hesitant to read this book when I got it because (1) I’m not a big YA reader, and (2) I find fairytale retellings a very precarious type of story. This being said, I liked Cinder quite a lot. It was a fun tale that didn’t overplay many of the elements that could have made it terrible.

 

I enjoyed the dynamics between many of the characters. Cinder’s relationships with her step-siblings and Ito, the family’s android, were, if not complex, at least fully-formed and not driven solely on artificial hatred. I think it was a wise move for Meyer to build a positive relationship between Cinder and Peony (the younger step-sibling). Not only did this give the story a catalyst that was believable via Peony’s illness, but it also made the rest of the family seem far more sympathetic, if not likable.

 

The characters avoided being caricatures. There was quite a bit of flatness still in the side characters. There was a lot of room for growth in both the older step-sister and step-mother. I was kind of disappointed that this wasn’t there (In fairness there was little emotional growth for the characters overall).

 

The world that Meyer built was interesting. Much of the world is built in the international politics as opposed to the science fiction of it all. I enjoyed that. I’m a political science junkie and find the account interesting.

 

I wasn’t thrilled with all of it. It seemed unlikely to me that the world would treat cyborgs as property. It seemed more likely that there would be a type of Lunar second class before that happened. People’s loved ones don’t stop being loved ones simply because they had an operation. It’s more likely that there would be xenophobic tendencies first.

 

The plot was enjoyable, if not always as complex as I would have wanted. There is a point when explaining the Lunar monarchy and the Lunar royal family that Meyer hints that something may have been the case. It was an *easy* plot point to make. I was almost convinced that she wouldn’t go for it. She did and I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t disappointed.

Regardless, I thought that it was a fun read with a lot of fun character interactions, a solid sense of plot-pacing, and a sense of humor.

Rating: 3.5

 

Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/Cinder-Book-One-Lunar-Chronicles/dp/1250007208

Book Depository Link: http://www.bookdepository.com/Cinder-Marissa-Meyer/9780312641894

Review: Dune by Frank Herbert

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Title: Dune

Author: Frank Herbert

Publication Date: 1965

Genre: Science Fiction

Overview: Duke Leto Atreides is moved to Arrakis to oversee the production of spice and the maintenance of the local desert people, the Fremen, much to the chagrin of the Baron Harkonnen. The Baron sets out to assassinate Leto and succeeds. Paul, the Duke’s heir, and Paul’s mother escape to the desert, a treacherous place filled with sinking sandpits and carnivorous worms the size of spaceships. Renamed Muad’Dib, Paul becomes a leader of the Fremen and seeks revenge on the Baron who assassinated his father and the Emperor who gave his tacit approval.

For Fans Of: Dune (the Movie), Herbert, Orson Scott Card

World-Building: Herbert relies heavily on desert imagery. He constructs the Fremen people around existing ideas about nomadic desert clans and Middle Eastern historical events (i.e. Byzantines). In this regard, his base is strong.

The ecological theory that riddles the novel is interesting. It creates the underlying motivation for the current Fremen state. Their utter belief in their ability to change Arrakis is not only necessary to help build a sense of religious fervor, but also lends credence to Arrakis as an empire’s colony (The netted dew-catchers is an old concept that has been drawn on both in Herbert’s science fiction and in today’s scientific developments.).

Current netted dew catching prototype

My only real problem with Dune’s world is Herbert’s quite obvious struggle with the concepts of genetic determinism and free will. Paul is consistently reminded that he is destined; Herbert often refers to this as Paul’s race consciousness (Note: this is not meant by Herbert in the more nuanced social scientific sense). Paul is genetically foretold and has powers that were granted to him. He has very little choice but to become the fabled Muad’Dib that the Fremen have waited so long for; every move he makes simply takes him closer to this fate. However, Paul is supposed to have choice, free will. We see this from the very beginning with Paul’s struggles with the oncoming potential for religious revolt. These two concepts are difficult to resolve and make parts of Paul’s journey frustrating because Herbert is unclear which he believes to be driving Paul. It’s a type of idealism that’s distracting in Herbert’s tale.

Character Development: Paul’s character becomes very flat the moment his full powers are unlocked. Though the Bene Gesserit parts of Paul should be allowing him insight into his own emotions and those of others, Paul seems to lock them out completely. He relies far more heavily on the Mentat (purely logical, analytical) ability to think and block out emotion. I think this is to the detriment of his development. For instance, it makes his romantic relationship and its intimacy seem very unbelievable.

Plot: The plot was interesting. The calculating nature of the world’s leaders is made very clear as well as the intricacies of their strategic decisions. This makes the plot easier to follow and gives it a sense of intrigue.

Rating: 3.0

Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/Dune-Frank-Herbert/dp/0441172717

Book Depository Link: http://www.bookdepository.com/Dune-Frank-Herbert/9788497596824

Review: Dark Eden by Chris Beckett

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Title: Dark Eden

Author: Chris Beckett

Publication Date: April 2014

Genre: Science Fiction

 

Overview: John’s family lives in Eden, a dark, wild planet once visited by people from Earth. They’ve spent the last 150 years in the Circle Valley waiting for Earth to rescue them, living as hunter and gatherers in the same spot that their forefathers were abandoned in generations ago. But the valley is dying. There isn’t enough food and no one has left to find more. In a fit of frustration, John destroys the center of their home and departs for the Dark Place beyond the valley bringing with him a group of ragtag youths.

 

For Fans Of: William Golding, Orson Scott Card (circa 1985?)

 

World-Building: Eden is pretty interesting as far as settings. It’s a land where there is no external light source and where the animals are mostly six legged and have mandibles (feelers on a mammal would be called _______?) It’s human inhabitants are almost cult-like and it’s surprising that they have absolutely no modern knowledge–presumably their forefathers were stranded astronauts– and live primitively. I found the more interesting parts to be in the time spent outside of the Valley. The developments that John Redlantern and his friends come up with are relatively simplistic, but enable them to encounter some fun and scary creatures.

 

The culture I found a little unsettling at times if only for the sexual practices. Beckett is not graphic in any of this, but some of it gave me the creeps (i.e. John and the group leader)

 

Character Development: John is consistently self-centered. That wasn’t so bad except that he’s indulged through to the very end without any real consequences despite a number of instances that seemed to be foreshadowing otherwise. I liked Tina; she was probably the best character. I liked that she had to become responsible and didn’t shirk from it and I liked that she was realistic about the people around her. Beckett sets her up initially as someone who’s a bit vapid, but she doesn’t stay that way.

 

Plot: There’s no real plot or end to it. John’s screwed it all up royally and it kind of just ends with him running from his screw ups like he did the whole book long. That’s not to say it’s bad. It felt like the way to end it for him, but there wasn’t some overarching plot or purpose to his adventures. Don’t expect a real conclusion to them.

 

Rating: 3.5

 

Notes: I received this copy from netgalley.com as an eARC. Dark Eden is an Arthur C. Clark award winner.

Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0804138680?ie=UTF8&tag=httpwwwgoodco-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0804138680&SubscriptionId=1MGPYB6YW3HWK55XCGG2

Book Depository Link:  http://www.bookdepository.com/Dark-Eden-Chris-Beckett/9781848874640